Nine Pegasus Slots Sold by Friday Deadline

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Arrogate annexes 2017 Pegasus | Susie Raisher

By Bill Finley

The deadline for owners to commit to buying slots in the Jan. 27 GI Pegasus World Cup came and went Friday with only nine slots being sold. However, in hopes of having a full field of 12 by post time, the Stronach Group bought the three remaining spots and will look to find horses to fill them between now and entry time for the $16-million race.

The nine horses that have secured spots are: Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), West Coast (Flatter), Toast of New York (Thewayyouare), Gunnevera (Dialed In), War Story (Northern Afleet), Collected (City Zip), Stellar Wind (Curlin) and Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul). The ninth spot was purchased earlier by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm, which has yet to determine what horse it will use to fill the slot.

The biggest omission from the list was that of GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song), who is owned by Charles Fipke. Fipke had said he was interested in running his mare in the race, but instead bought a slot for Seeking the Soul. Seeking the Soul is coming off a win in the GI Clark H. Dallas Stewart trains both horses.

“This was pretty much Mr. Fipke’s decision,” Stewart said. “We’re running Seeking the Soul because we think we have a really live chance with him. Forever Unbridled has already established her resume. She’s a made woman. I know Gun Runner is the horse to beat, but our horse is coming off a big win and we really think he has a good shot.”

Stewart said Forever Unbridled is doing “great” and will be pointed for a “Grade I campaign.” He mentioned the GI Apple Blossom at Oaklawn as one race that would possibly be on her schedule.

The Stronach Group had hoped to have all 12 slots sold by Friday, but the company’s CEO Tim Ritvo said he was delighted with the quality of the horses that have committed to the race. The race will include the top four finishers from the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, plus Gunnevera, who was sixth.

“Yes, we wish we had all 12 slots sold by now, but those things happen,” Ritvo said. “But we are thrilled with what we have. It’s our second year and there are still growing pains. But I think Frank Stronach deserves so much credit for what he has done with this race. After last year, we could have said, we did it, that was fun, goodbye. Instead, we’re back and look at the results. This race has extended the racing careers of at least two horses, Gun Runner and Stellar Wind, and that never would have happened without this race. It’s great for racing to get to see these horses run again.”

With the Stronach Group now owning three spots it will be up to Ritvo and his team to find horses to fill them and negotiate deals. Each slot costs $1 million.

“We put up the extra money to protect the purse of

$16 million,” Ritvo said. “Now it’s up to us to cut deals with people who may want to run. It could be a 50-50 deal, we could sell the entire spot to someone. There are still a lot of horses out there who are possibilities.”

One such horse is Sharp Aztecta (Freud), who is coming off a win in the GI Cigar Mile. Trainer Jorge Navarro said his owner, Ivan Rodriguez, wants to run in the race, but cannot make a commitment because he is in the process of negotiating a deal to sell an interest in the six-time stakes winner.

“We have the money and want ro run,” Navarro said. “But there is an offer out there right now for the horse and the owner is willing to sell. He doesn’t want to sell the horse 100%, he wants to keep a share. Right now, we are waiting for things to fall into place and dealing with deadlines. We just want to do the right thing for the animal.”

Ritvo said the owners of Prime Attraction (Unbridled’s Song), the recent winner of the GIII Native Diver, had asked about a spot and remain a possibility for the race. Saturday’s GIII Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream could also produce a starter. Trainer Todd Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form that should Destin (Giant’s Causeway) run well in the $100,000 race, owners Twin Creek Racing Stables might consider the Pegasus. Ritvo said he also hopes to attract a starter from the December 26

GII San Antonio S. at Santa Anita.

With three open slots left, Fipke still has the opportunity to run Forever Unbridled in the race, but Stewart said he was rather certain his owner was intent on passing with his mare.

The Stronach Group has gone to great lengths to ease the financial burden on owners whose horses do not finish in the top three. Several owners who put up the $1 million last year were licking their wounds when the return on their investment was in the neighborhood of $350,000. The Stronach Group took $4 million out of its own pocket and added it to the $12 million put up by the slot holders. By doing so, Gulfstream is now guaranteeing a minimum return of $650,000 to all starters.

Toast of New York will be one of the more interesting horses in the race. It was announced Friday that Reeves Thoroughbreds, R.A. Hill and Eric Young had reached an agreement with Al Shaqab Racing to partner on a slot in the race. When last seen in the U.S., the now 6-year-old lost the 2014 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic to Bayern (Offlee Wild) by a nose. He did not race again until Dec. 6 of this year, winning a race on a synthetic surface at Lingfield in the U.K.

 

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